Imagine you are a koala in a child’s story book, hanging out doing typical koala-y things with eucalyptus when the child jabs you with her finger, exclaiming ‘Look! A cute, furry bear!’
Now, you probably do look quite like a bear to the untrained eye – you have fur, paws, cute teddy nose – and nobody corrects the child to tell her that, actually, you are a marsupial,* so from that moment on, as far as you are aware, you are a bear.
I will end the analogy here because I have already spent an unplanned hour researching koalas (eucalyptus is toxic / they have opposable thumbs / chlamydia is widespread in some koala populations), but the point is that growing up – navigating childhood, adolescence and adulthood – unaware that you are autistic or ADHD or otherwise neurodivergent, is like this insofar as you have been given or mis-taken an identity that is not yours.
You have struggled through life, living as a bear, doing the normal bear things that other bears seem to find easy, and have always felt different to the other bears, because YOU ARE NOT A BEAR.**
*I had to look this up as my nine-year-old son wasn’t around to ask.
**This is, obviously, a continuation of the analogy above that I said had ended.